this morning i woke up feeling fine. i was going to go to university and pick up some books from the library. i was going to drop in the strappy black shoes that my sister and i timeshare, and i was then going to come back home, walk the dog and settle down to a few productive hours of work.
but then, it was like someone offered me one of these
to go on one of these
around 12.45pm i sat down to lunch of salad, raw green beans and a semi-soft-boiled egg. and fetta cheese. danish. all in a pile in my big white bowl.
i had still not heard from princess, or ali. it had been several days, i had sent another text message asking if they were getting my text messages. i know, free-floating, low-grade anxiety will make people start to be a bit illogical.
so i decided to call karen, a friend who lives in san francisco, whose place they were at getting ready to leave in the car on saturday to drive up to the snow, when i spoke to princess. i know, that is a terribly constructed sentence. please just be tolerant.
i called karen. it was 6pm her time. this is how it went as best as i can remember. i promise i am not adding anything for dramatic or comedic effect. karen speaks really s.l.o.w.l.y and clearly and has a very sing-song american accent, i'm sure you can imagine it:
k: happy new year!
mg: hi karen, this is melbournegirl in melbourne
k: hi there, how are you?
mg: fine thanks, how are you? it's not too late there?
k: oh, no. it's six o'clock here, in the evening.
mg: ok. i was just calling to see if you have ali's contact details of where they are staying? i've been sending them text messages and haven't heard back. i'd just like to call them and see how things are going
k: no. no, i do not have any details. you know, they have gone into the biggest adventure of their lives. i've been trying to call ali's cell phone and i keep getting the message that it's disconnected. so i'm a little bit on pins and needles here. and there's been a huge snowstorm and the highway that they were on was closed for 48 hours. but they had blankets, and food and water. you know he had been cooking for 2 days before princess arrived. i made him take chains with him. and he had good tires on the car, it's his cousin's car, big tires
mg: did you know there was a snowstorm coming?
k: yes, i did
mg: did ali know there was a snowstorm coming?
k: yes, he did.
mg: [getting a little bit nervous cause she is starting to sound like a crackpot] and he didn't say he would call when they got there?
k: oh, no
mg: and you didn't ask him for details of where they would be staying?
k: no, i didn't think of it. melbournegirl, i'm sure they are having the adventure of their lives. they have blankets and food and water so if they are snowbound they will be ok. i'm sure of it.
mg: i don't know about in america, but here when people go off like that they leave contact details with people behind, and let them know where they are going
k: oh well, i've known ali for seven years, and he's a very careful driver, even though he hasn't had much snow and ice experience. there haven't been any news reports of accidents on that highway
mg: ok, i need to call someone. who should i call to try and see if there's been any problems?
[k gives me names of california automobile assistance thingo, and highway patrol type place]
[i am trying not to panic, keeping a lid on it. i can't believe what i'm hearing.]
k: i feel they are ok. you know lisa bought princess two little snow parkas, with fur around the hood, she looked so darling
[i want to scream at her that she is being fucking insane]
k: i am sure they will be all right. lisa and ali are two very clever people.
[oh that's right, i forgot clever people never make mistakes and DIE]
i can't remember exactly what else was said, but she told me she didn't think i should panic, that princess will be ok. all i can think about is that her father has driven off with her into a snowstorm, along a road that was closed in the 48 hours since they left.
i didn't know when the snowstorm started, but i knew it was going to take them about 4 hours to drive, so by friday evening their time, they should have been there.
i got off the phone from karen. luckily john was here. i started bawling. i don't think he's ever seen me cry like that in two years, and has probably only ever seen me cry once or twice before. he held me, i cried. i sat with my head in my hands. i said something like:
"she would have been so scared"
why did i use that tense?
i was thinking of them off the road, covered in snow, and how scared she would be. the air running out. no one seeing the car from the road. once in turkey ali had almost driven off the road on a long car trip. i was in the front, and luckily saw us steering towards the edge. i shouted and he turned the wheel. we were seconds from going over. i have seen how easily and quickly things like that can happen.
i started torturing myself with all the possibilities. john and i got online and i googled to try and get a phone number. it was frustrating and slow.
i called highway patrol direct, and got the most humourless dispatcher in the world. all she could tell me was that highway 80 was open now, and could only check that ali was neither admitted to hospital or arrested for anything. which he wasn't. it was surreal to be spelling his name over the phone to some woman in america, mixing up my letters, you know like alpha bravo charlie. i was doing samantha, echo, unicorn, nancy.
john calmed me down. told me that she would be fine.
i drove off to university but somewhere around the mcg i went to pieces and called my sister. she heard it in my voice and told me to go there straight away. her husband has spent time in america and knows how things work there. i was thinking of a tiny mountain road with steep sides, and probably the highway would be really wide.
they gave me a cup of tea, and calmed me down. we got online again and he showed me the way they would have driven. he also saw weather forecasts for when they come back, and it looks fine. he reassured me and i calmed down. he also saw that the snowstorm had been on the saturday, so well after they would have arrived.
so after sister modelled her new dress she is wearing to a friend's wedding, and which the shoes looked great with, i drove back home.
and princess had left a message on the phone at 5pm. i was happy to hear her voice, and though she sounded tired and not altogether happy, at least she is not trapped in a car under three metres of snow, crying into her stuffed dog and wanting mummy.
i don't know whether they got any of the text messages, but she said that her dad's phone is not working and so they can't call me easily. and that she hopes to talk to me soon.
she sounded very grown up and i am glad i can sleep tonight.
i miss her more than i can say. it's like being in love with someone, yearning for them, wanting to see them and touch them. it's hard. it really is. when i let myself miss her, and think about her, it's like my heart is breaking.
i don't expect people without children to understand me. and i'm sorry to be a sap. but this is my space and it's helping me to write these words.
i'm hoping tomorrow will be smooth. and i can get some work done.
ps here's to all the little children in the world who are away from their parents at this moment for whatever reason. strength to them and their loved ones. it must be so devastating for those who don't make their way back.
22 days to go